You’ve heard it before! We’re working the Perfect Labor Storm. But there are two trends impacting U.S. jobs that are often pushed aside. They involve working women and teens.
What the future workforce will look like is clear as mud. Demographic and job market surveys and studies produce contradictory and ambiguous results. But one thing remains sure. The workforce will look and function differently than any previous workforce. Jobs won’t be tweaked but replaced. New jobs we never imagined are being created.
The only certainty we know is the workforce of today and tomorrow will be continuously evolving. And yet many companies react like they are spectators on the sidelines and not active participants.
A recent report from Career Builder, “The Changing Face of U.S. Jobs,” explores how an increasingly diverse population is affecting the composition of nearly 800 occupations by gender, age, and race/ethnicity. Two of the most significant trends follow.
More women working but losing ground in high-pay jobs
There are more women in the workforce today than at any point in U.S. history: 4.9 million more female workers since 2001 compared to just 2.2 million additional male workers.
One reason for the increase is that women are less likely than they were in the past to leave the labor force for family or other reasons. Men, on the other hand, are increasingly more likely to leave a job and opt not to look for another.
But as radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to tell us, “and now for the rest of the story.”
Despite declining male labor participation since the 1970s, it is men that are gaining a greater share of jobs in 72 percent of all occupations. While fewer men are working they are getting jobs, and thirty-seven percent of those jobs are in female-majority occupations. Women gained a greater share of employment in just 21 percent of occupations.
How is it women are losing ground in most occupations? It’s because 76 percent of occupations that lost 10,000 jobs or more since 2001 were male-majority occupations.
Conversely, of the 32 occupations that gained 75,000 jobs or more, 69 percent were female-majority. The largest gains in the workforce for women occurred in a smaller number of occupations, many of them at the lower pay scales such cashiers and clerks.
That leads us to the next chapter in this unfolding story of how our workforce is evolving.
One controversial topic is gender pay gap. But same pay for the same work offers a limited solution to an insidious shift.
A socioeconomic event called “occupational segregation” is in place. Women have lost ground in 48 out of the 50 highest paying occupations including surgeons, orthodontists, and psychiatrists. Men are gaining in higher paying jobs while women are gaining mostly in low-paying, male-majority jobs. Male-majority jobs pay significantly more per hour, on average, than female-majority jobs ($25.49 median hourly earnings for men vs. $20.85 for women).
That trend is perplexing because women now dominate college graduation numbers. But the degrees that many women receive are just not in top-paying fields, such as STEM jobs. While total male participation and college graduation is down, men continue to lead in programs that typically lead to higher-paying jobs, such as computer science (83 percent of 2013 grads) and law (54 percent).
The aging workforce is felt in virtually all occupations.
In addition to gender shifts in our workforce, we have an increasingly aging workforce and it is impacting younger generations, even teens. Part-time and summer jobs like hosts/hostesses, food prep/serving, dishwashers, and ushers/ticket takers have disappeared.
Faced with a tumultuous job market, Millennials (now in their 20s and early 30s) continue to experience high unemployment and underemployment. At the same time the age 55 and older workforce increased its share of employment in 99 percent of occupations! There are now 8.3 million more older workers who were supposed to retire but didn’t. The near-apocalyptic exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce has not occurred as predicted creating a “gray ceiling.”
That’s good news for employers because the brain drain has been postponed, but it’s bad news for the three succeeding generations (Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z).
What’s my point? Waiting to see what happens is no longer an option. Any company that expects to grow (or even survive) must recognize that the labor and job markets are evolving and how they recruit, hire, manage, and retain workers will need to evolve too.